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Cars driving on an Athens street

Car ownership rates across Europe show marked disparities East and West

Car ownership rates across Europe show marked disparities East and West

The latest Eurostat report shows that on average there is one car for every two people in the EU

Recently, Eurostat released its latest report on the motorisation rate in Europe for 2020, including the EU, the EEA and Turkey. Several interesting conclusions were made about the state of car ownership on the continent, among them the finding that there are 0.53 passenger cars per inhabitant or roughly one car for every two people.

Furthermore, the report showed marked regional differences on at least two levels. On the one hand, there is the West vs East divide, with much higher ownership rates in the western countries – the notable exception to the rule being Poland, which is very much western in that respect.

On the other hand, there are also interesting domestic disparities between regions within countries, and these disparities themselves show a West-East division in character. We are talking about the difference in motorisation rates between capital cities and the rest of the country. Car ownership rates are higher in Eastern capitals compared to the smaller populated places. In the West, however, it’s usually the opposite and the countryside wins.

France is a superb example of the latter with Limousin, the most sparsely populated region having the most cars per inhabitant, whereas Ile de France, containing Paris, has the fewest. Similar patterns can be also seen in Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland.

Those disparities show the reliance on cars as a necessity of life (West) versus ownership as a sign of economic wellbeing (East), among other things.

Which are the regions with the highest and lowest motorisation rates?

In 2020, three of the five highest motorisation rates (number of passenger cars per 1 000 inhabitants) were registered in Italy: Valle d’Aosta (1 787), the Autonomous Province of Trento (1 285) and the Autonomous Province of Bolzano (871). The other two were recorded in Flevoland (857) in the Netherlands and the Finnish region of Åland Islands (840).

These regional rates are often linked to the economic situation but can also be affected by specific circumstances: the high motorisation rate in Valle d’Aosta is influenced by taxation rules and the high rate in Flevoland is connected to its location close to a larger city - Amsterdam. 

On the other hand, the lowest motorisation rates were reported in two French (overseas departments) and three Greek regions: Mayotte (72), Peloponnese (186), French Guiana (209), Central Greece (238) and North Aegean (261).

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